R.I. Brewers Guild to hold inaugural ‘Craft Beer Week’ in March

THE RHODE ISLAND BREWERS Guild will hold its inaugural 'Rhode Island Craft Beer Week' in early March.
THE RHODE ISLAND BREWERS Guild will hold its inaugural 'Rhode Island Craft Beer Week' in early March.

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island’s breweries have been forced like so many other industries to adjust operations during the pandemic.

But the good news “was there was still demand for the product,” said Matthew Gray, co-owner of Portsmouth-based Ragged Island Brewing Co. LLC. “It was how you get it to customers that was different.”

The Rhode Island Brewers Guild will celebrate the state’s local brewing industry and pandemic lessons learned this year with its inaugural Rhode Island Craft Beer week.

The week, March 5-13, is sandwiched in between the guild’s Rhode Island Brew Fest in February and Newport Beer Fest in April. It will allow various breweries and distilleries to showcase their products and hold various events within their own manufacturing facilities, local bars, liquor stores, pubs and restaurants. The week will also have virtual events to be planned online.

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Gray, who is the guild’s marketing committee chairperson, told Providence Business News that the state’s craft beer industry has matured over the last decade from people considering a regional brewery as “local” to one where a brewery is located either in town or one town over across the state. Since 2013, the guild has grown from five member breweries to close to 40.

Also, breweries have become “more like a restaurant,” where beer connoisseurs are provided more options at a particular location, Gray said. Plus, he said the industry has changed in that it has become more of a tourism-based model encouraging people to visit different breweries across Rhode Island.

“People are going to want to take vacations and plan around that,” Gray said. “I think Rhode Island Craft Beer Week is a great example of that where … folks will come to Rhode Island that week if they are big beer fans.”

Gray also said the pandemic has impacted the distillery industry, even though local breweries found ways to adjust. While he does not know of any breweries that permanently closed due to the pandemic, they are dealing with inflation challenges and higher costs of raw materials as a result, he said.

Along with doing more with less employees at times, Gray said brewers also had to switch from selling draft beer because tap rooms and restaurants were closed for a period to bottling them for sale in liquor stores.

Gray said brewers for Craft Beer Week will be scheduling their own events to take place during the nine-day stretch. All events will be finalized and listed on the guild’s website on Feb. 25.

Some events for that week are in place. Narragansett Brewing Co., for example, will host on March 5 an “Ultimate Rhode Island Day” event to launch a new beer and other Rhode Island food staples, such as Del’s Lemonade and New York System wieners.

Various restaurants, such as the Back 40 in North Kingstown, Black Oak Kitchen & Drinks in Coventry and Pour Judgement in Newport, will have “Tap Takeover” events where the majority of their tap beer offerings will be of beer from the Ocean State.

“These places might typically carry four, five different Rhode Island brewers at a time. Now, we might look at them carrying 15 taps of Rhode Island beer that week,” Gray said.

Another unique event slated for Rhode Island Craft Beer Week is the Rhode Map Challenge. Beer tasters, the guild said, will utilize the guild’s passport phone app to check into, purchase a sample of beer and post photos from as many Rhode Island-based breweries as they can that week – the guild also strongly promotes having a designated driver for this event.

Gray said there will be prizes offered for all the different tiers that beer tasters can hit and grand prizes for those who go “above and beyond.”

“We think [this] is a great time for us to host this [event] annually and give a little boost to what is a quieter time of the year for all of us,” Gray said.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.

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